CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – 16th ranked Iowa Central defeated Monroe College (N.Y.) 34-20 in the Opening Game of the 2018 The Graphic Edge Bowl Game to win their first bowl game since 2014.
After stalling in their first possession of the game, 16th-ranked Iowa Central set the tone.
Despite an opening three-and-out on offense, Triton linebacker Jackson Martens squared up a pass from Monroe quarterback Jalen Brown and returned a 28-yard interception the other way to give Iowa Central a 7-0 lead.
The Tritons scored again at the 7-minute mark of the first quarter to take a 14-0 on a one-yard plunge from their leading rusher, Draven Peeples, his first rushing touchdown of the season. Peeples finished the game with 73 yards on 17 carries.
Monroe found life at the end of the first quarter when running back Jarious Jones found pay dirt after a three-yard run, closing the score deficit 14-6 after the try after failed.
From there, backup quarterback Justin Blake took over the reins of the Iowa Central offense. Blake led a drive to immediately combat the Mustangs score when he found J.M. Young for a 20-yard score. The Tritons took a 21-6 lead into the break.
Blake was named the 2018 The Graphic Edge Bowl MVP after accumulating 201 total yards and three touchdowns. He connected on nine of his 13 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns, his second coming on the first play of the fourth quarter. He was complimented by Blake Dever, who played well himself, throwing for a team-high 178 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, with the Tritons up 21-6 after a scoreless third quarter, Blake launched a ball down the right sideline which found Carlton Todd in stride. Todd burned past the defender to a 65-yard score to give the Tritons a 22-point advantage.
Defensively, Iowa Central's front seven dominated Monroe throughout the day. The Triton's had 18 tackles for a loss, including four sacks, that resulted in a total of -8 rushing yards for the Mustangs in total.
The defense was led by linebackers Torre Boland and Spencer Cuvelier who combined for 14 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Boland was named Defensive MVP after leading the team in tackles (8) and sacks (1.5).
Brown, Mustang quarterback and Northeast Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year, kept the game in striking distance in an eventful fourth quarter in which the teams combined for 27 points. He found Tyler Hodge for 43 yards and made the game a two-score game 28-13 with 13:17 to go in the game.
Just like Monroe's first score, Iowa Central countered immediately, scoring on a one-yard Blake run less than two minutes later. The score put the Tritons back in front by 21, 34-13
Monroe scored again on an 83-yard score from Brown to Bailey, but the onside kick attempt failed and the Tritons ran out the clock.
The win gave Iowa Central their eighth of the season, the first time since 2008 that they were able to reach the 8-win mark. The Tritons are 15-11-1 all-time in NJCAA Bowl games.